Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Out of the Booth and On the Road to Discipleship

After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me." (Luke 5:27 NASB)

The Roman Empire was an expensive operation, funded by tax dollars. The Jewish people had been conquered by Rome and were an occupied nation. As a result, they were forced to pay taxes to Rome. It was bad enough to pay taxes, but when fellow Jews served as tax collectors for the Romans, it was worse. The tax collectors worked in small booths or offices by the side of the road with Roman soldiers nearby to help enforce the tax they charged. The tax collector was responsible for collecting a certain amount of tax, regardless of the number of people he saw. Anything extra he collected was his to keep. Not surprisingly, the practice of charging a higher rate of tax was very common. Tax collecting was usually quite a lucrative business, and the tax collectors, who had gained their wealth at the expense of their fellow countrymen, were considered traitors, and treated as outcasts. No one who was "anyone" spent time socially with tax collectors. 

With that as background, consider what Jesus did next. He left the place where He had been teaching and started out. Along the way, He came to the tax booth where Matthew was working. We don't know if there was a ruckus, but the scene there captured Jesus's attention, and He noticed Matthew. This noticing, theaomai, is more than just seeing with His eyes. Jesus saw Matthew with perception and understanding, and in His look, Jesus could see that Matthew was ready for a change. Perhaps he saw shame, frustration, guilt, hurt. Whatever Jesus saw, he perceived it correctly. Jesus spoke two words, "Follow Me", and Matthew was out of the booth and on the road. 

Today, pray that He will see us and our loved ones with that same clarity of vision and that He will speak the words of release and freedom that are most needed. Pray that when Jesus calls us and our loved ones to leave the life we've embraced for the road of discipleship, there will be no hesitation, just instant obedience